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Nation-NIL Trends: Week 1

by michelle
Week 1 of NIL

Female Athlete Opportunities, Yoke Gaming Contract, and Barstool Athlete Contemplations

Over 500,000 collegiate athletes across the country gained their name, image, and likeness rights on July 1. The first week brought thousands, if not tens of thousands, of athletes taking advantage of this opportunity and fi-NIL-ly getting paid. As expected, most deals were social media endorsements, with other athletes announcing their clothing lines, business endeavors, and intentions to run training camps. Here are my biggest takeaways and trends to watch from the first week of Name, Image, and Likeness Reform.

Deals Deals Deals

THE GOOD

Female Athlete Opportunities: For those who have been following NIL closely, you know that this reform is projected to be more advantageous for female athletes than males. Why, you ask?

  1. Females typically have a larger social media presence and engage with their followers more, making them more attractive to brands for social marketing campaigns. 
  2. Female athletes don’t have as many opportunities as males to compete professionally after college. For most, their biggest time to capitalize on their personal brand is while they’re competing in college. 

Now, I do think that if we compare the top 20% of male athletes versus the top 20% of female athletes, the males may still have a higher earnings average. This will mostly be due to the difference in media coverage for football and men’s basketball compared to other college sports. However, I think that overall, more female athletes will engage with NIL and see monetary benefits that they wouldn’t have after graduating. 

On the first day of NIL, the Cavinder Twins stole the show. These athletes, who play basketball at Fresno State, flew out to New York City, were featured in Times Square, and signed with Boost Mobile. While the exact financial terms haven’t been disclosed, it’s projected that both signed for five figures. It’s inevitable that they will sign additional endorsement deals that may lead them to making double their coach’s salary

Olivia Dunne, a gymnast from LSU, may be the highest-paid collegiate athlete in the first year. She has over 5 million followers between Instagram and TikTok and could sign an NIL deal worth millions.

“Olivia Dunne signing with CAA or another company for something like $4 or $5 million — that’s not out of the realm of reality,” said Baton Rouge entertainment lawyer Roy Maughan Jr.

While these three athletes are examples of the highest female earners thus far, there will be thousands of opportunities over the next year for young women to get after. 

FEMALE ATHLETE OPPORTUNITY: Kristi Dosh, the founder of Business of College Sports amongst many other endeavors, is creating a FREE Slack channel dedicated to helping female athletes navigate NIL. Learn more and check out the application HERE.  

THE QUESTIONABLE

Yoke Gaming: On July 1, Yoke Gaming had a simple marketing campaign: Athletes post an image with a pre-scripted caption on their Instagram and Yoke would Venmo them (ranges seen between $3 and $100). Although a final number of how many athletes participated is unclear, it’s projected between 5,000 and 10,000 took Yoke up on their offer for some quick cash. 

However, on July 6, AAE Law shared a screenshot of their user agreement to Instagram which showed that athletes might’ve given away more rights than they intended to. 

Darren Heitner, a University of Florida professor in sports law and practicing sports, entertainment, and IP lawyer said about the Yoke deal, “The big thing that stuck out to me when I saw this post on YOKE was extensive rights that the athletes were providing. And not only the extent of those rights but that they were perpetual royalty-free and irrevocable. For an athlete, not to be able to revoke that right at any point for the rest of that athlete’s life or career, it’s a concern, especially if the compensation is around $20.”

NIL NETWORK INSIGHT: While I want to believe that there was no malicious intent from Yoke and that they were just using a standard user agreement for their industry, this should be an eye-opener for collegiate athletes of the potential “dark side” of NIL. There are real-life consequences and responsibilities that brand ambassadors assume when they sign a contract. 

ATHLETE TAKEAWAY: No matter the size of the deal, make sure you read and understand what you’re signing up for. While hiring an attorney to look over the contract is ideal, it may be cost-prohibitive for some. Even having a trusted individual such as a parent read over the contract with you is better than nothing! 

ON THE WATCH LIST

Barstool: On July 1, Dave Portnoy, CEO of Barstool Sports, launched Barstool Athletes INC and said that if you’re a D1 athlete and you so much as blink at him, he will sign you. While the “Barstool Athlete” concept appears to be created on a whim, it looks like athletes will get exclusive merchandise and opportunities to be featured to increase their social following. 

A few news sources claimed that over 100,000 athletes signed up. However, as NCAA D1 only has around 176,000 athletes, I think that number may be inflated. Regardless, it’s a big number. 

What’s the problem? In many state laws and institution policies, athletes are prohibited from partnering with gambling companies. Penn National, a company that owns and operates casinos, has a 36-percent stake in Barstool Sports, which also has its own sportsbook.

One university, American International College, has explicitly stated that their athletes are not allowed to work with Barstool: “Working with Barstool is not allowed because even if you don’t promote gambling directly, you are still promoting a company that owns a sports betting site/app and that goes against NCAA rules and Massachusetts state laws.”

They followed up with a clarifying tweet: “Would like to clarify since we’ve gotten questions…this is our institutional policy (not NCAA) to protect our athletes from potential eligibility issues since this is such a gray area!”

NIL NETWORK INSIGHT: Is it illegal to partner with Barstool? Are “Barstool Athletes” going to be deemed ineligible? Nobody has a definite answer. American International College made that clear in their clarifying tweet. Who is in charge of deciding it’s permissible? Who is in charge of enforcing? The NCAA has made it clear that they are staying out of NIL as much as possible. The institutions are weary to enforce their policies from both a legal and recruiting strategy angle. The states? Unclear there as well. This is one of the many grey areas that I’m sure will continue coming up over the next few years.

ATHLETE TAKEAWAY: Compliance is your bestie. In this new era of collegiate sports, there are going to be hundreds of unknowns. Always take your deals to compliance. NIL offers are not worth your eligibility. 

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